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Public Research Requests: Posting Help Wanted Ads for Genealogy Research


“Oh, help!”

I think most of us have had that feeling at least once as we’ve worked to fill in gaps in our research. The next time you find yourself wishing for a little bit of assistance, Genlighten’s Public Research Request feature might be just what you need.

How to Post a Public Request

Any registered site user can post a public research request—think of it as a genealogy help-wanted ad—with a few clicks of the mouse. It’s quick, easy, and there’s no listing fee.

Log in and you’ll be taken to “Your Genlighten Dashboard.” (If you’re registered as a provider, you’ll need to click the “Client Dashboard” link from “Your Provider Dashboard” to get to access the client-side tools.)

Scroll down to the bottom of the left-hand navigation bar and click on “Post New” under “Public Requests.” (They’re called “Public Requests” because they’re not aimed at a specific researcher; any registered provider can submit a quote.)

Give your request a title and briefly describe the research that you need. Let providers know your budget and click “Post Public Request.”

Posts are moderated (we don’t want site users bothered by spam) but the turnaround time is quick because site administrators receive email notification when new requests are submitted.

That’s all there is to it. Providers will message you with questions and submit quotes if they think they can help. It’s up to you to consider the proposals carefully. Ask questions if you don’t understand what a provider is offering to do. Make sure there’s a meeting of the minds before you accept a quote. And, if none of the quotes meet your needs, feel free to politely decline them all.

Public requests with no quotes will expire in a week and disappear from the list. (You’re welcome to resubmit.) Public requests with quotes will be extended and a reminder email will be sent to give clients time to follow up on the proposals.

What Happens if You Accept a Quote?

If you accept a quote, your public research request will disappear and an hourly research tracking page will be created for the project. From that point forward, the request is handled like any other project. If you have more than one quote pending response when you accept, the site will automatically notify those providers that another quote has been accepted.

How to Craft Your Posts to Maximize Success

1. Give your request a specific title. Sure, providers will probably look at a post called “Probate Record” but you if you need someone in a specific place, let people know. “Montgomery County, PA Probate Record,” has a much better chance of catching the attention of someone who can help.

2. Be specific in your description but don’t clutter it with unnecessary details. If you need a divorce record, chances are two names, a place, and an approximate year of divorce are all providers will need to know if they can help. Birth dates, children’s names, addresses for the family will just make it difficult for busy providers to figure out what it is you really want. If they need more information, they’ll ask.

3. Set a realistic budget. Think about what you would charge to do the same research and set your budget accordingly. If you set your budget too low you may not get any quotes. If you set your budget too high, you may get quotes from providers who aren’t in the best position to help.

4. Do your homework. Try a quick Internet search or make a quick phone call before posting to try to determine if the information you need can be found in records that are available for public searching. If not, it’s unlikely that a provider could help.

When a provider sends you a research proposal and a quote, check it out. Does it seem likely that the answers you’re looking for can be found in the suggested way?

The best public requests are those that ask a researcher to do what you would do if you had access to the records—to perform a specific task at a specific repository within a known set of records. The next-best requests are those that tell providers what information is needed and invite them to suggest ways of finding it.

Check Out the Current List of Public Research Requests

If you’d like to view the current list of Public Research Requests, go to “Your Genlighten Dashboard” and click on “All” under “Public Requests.”

The larger the Genlighten community grows, the more chance there’ll be of researchers responding to Public Research Requests when we post them. (Do I use the site for my own research needs? You bet.) With that in mind, feel free to pass the word along to anyone you know who might be interested in Genlighten.


Genlighten Co-founder

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